The genre of music called Gospel is arguably the most difficult to define in recent times. This is owed to conservatives maintaining that Church music is getting secular, while the protagonists argue that the gospel is being repackaged to address the challenges of the ‘hip’ generation.
This notwithstanding, there is yet a third school of thought that has its roots evidently from the old wise Gamaliel of the early church era, who carefully asserts that ‘by their fruits, you shall know them’ or better still, ‘time will tell’.
Music from the Ghanaian gospel scene has for sometime being clearly misconstrued as songs which simply carry a message from the Bible, regardless of how shallow, distorted or misquoted they may be… once there is an occasional mention of the matchless name of JESUS, you are sure to hit the gospel charts. But the above has had strong cases being set against it over the last decade with the rise of many gospel groups and individual ministers (artistes).
The aim of the notable likes of Danny Nettey, Nii Okai, Ps. Helen Yawson, Ike Nanor and groups such as the Harbour City Mass Choir, Impact Project, the Commissioned Family, (continuing in the trail blazed by Joyful Way, Calvary Road Singers, etc) to forge a formidable course to address Gospel music as not merely a form of entertainment or just any music but of ministerial -salvation- essence, is gradually gaining more grounds.
At least, this cites Contemporary Ghanaian gospel’s (regularly touted as Urban gospel) contribution to value the gospel genre, a thing Mainstream Gospel (the gospel music type reached by the masses) has not really held in esteem particularly with the constant influx of self-seeking and never-improving singers.
All aside, one thing comes out clear, and that is the two Ghanaian gospel sub-genres MUST lay to rest the friction of the blame tags and forge to fight Contempory Gospel’s bane of not reaching wide among the people and Mainstream’s lack of or little ministerial and creative essence for the sake of the lost, weary, lukewarm and saved souls. This is exactly what Nii Okai’s niche in the gospel fraternity continually carries as his God-given mission, evidently to be seen again in his yet-to-be-launched, December 13, ‘Hymnz Unlimited’ album.
Having highlighted his entry to the music ministry with the cross-over yet appealing ‘Moko Be’ album which walked the title track into the music family as a household Ghanaian worship song, Nii has evolved; preferably unleashing his multi-influenced creative music gift across all spheres staging a case for good gospel videos, live ministrations and musical evangelism while partnering and leading the pack of notable gospel greats and groups. Perhaps, his background works out perfectly as deserving credit: Mfantsipim School and KNUST music circles, the latter noted as the prolific womb which bore majority of the rare musical (gospel) breeds existing today and continues to churn new singers and groups.
After his first, ‘Worshipful’ followed up as his second individual album and beyond words firmed him as a unique worshipper and well-schooled minister. Nii then helped the 120-man Tema-based Harbour City Mass Choir, a choir he co-founded, to put out its 10-year mission of musical outreaches in a form of an album, ‘Touching Our Youth’.
The Choir under his presidency earned massive platforms, reviews and commendations for their creativity and evangelism-themed ministrations including an international stint with the legendary like of Alvin Slaughter and others. In all this, Nii Okai has shown sheer brilliance in composition, arrangement and re-arrangements of anointed songs to the awe of many, fusing elements from here and there: jazz, classical, soul, hymns, traditional Ghanaian rhythms, etc.
Now, ‘Hymnz Unlimited’, a direction not to be predicted by many except close associations, is set to further raise his profile as a minister of the gospel with intent of musical revival within the body of Christ in mind. That objective of reviving Church’s gradually wearing-out tradition of hymns and spirituals, and getting everyone both young and old to appreciate it has tagged this project as his longest duration for a production.
Though not revealing much for now, Nii Okai’s ‘Hymnz Unlimited’ is an out-of-the-box rendition of the church’s most captivating and inspirational hymns, 22 in all plus a thought-provoking canticle. The description of an out-of-the-box rendition should cover for the level of creativity and quality production laced with loads of fusions and surprising instrumentations for hymns. Therefore what to expect first is the ever-inspiring lyrical content of hymns backed by the unexpected. Perhaps, Nii’s ‘Oda’ from his Worshipful album and the Harbour City Mass Choir’s re-arranged MHB 215 “Halleluya” can provide useful tips of what is to come in his new album, ‘Hymnz Unlimited’.
The album launched which will be in the form of a celebration launch and comes off on Sunday, December 13, at the Silverbird Stores of the famous Accra Mall, 4pm prompt. According to him, anybody willing to attend should simply come to the Mall dressed preferably in White top over matching jeans and come have fun since there will be a number of ministry friends around, karaoke sessions of some of his songs with some fans, CD signings, photography moments and loads of his albums and souvenirs to be purchased at special prices.
‘Hymnz Unlimited’ is a creative rendition of 22 Old & New Methodist Hymns and a Canticle produced by the impeccable and anointed Kofi Dua Anto (KODA) of Koded Studious. Born into the Methodist Church, Nii exemplifies a true Wesleyan spirit well-spiced with multi-cultural music influences. Blending skill with anointing, ‘Hymnz Unlimited’ will make you want to sing hymns all day long, in the way that maintains their timeless nature whilst interpreting them in musical forms that just make you want to worship. December 13 at the Accra Mall is a divine date.
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